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Software Advice’s Managing Editor, Holly Regan, interviewed executives at successful startups to find out how they recruit and retain talent. Some of the startups interviewed include: Raidious, Hire Sales, Beaglo, Simpleology, Graphology Consulting Group, Virool, iPlace USA, Money Desktop, Voices, WorkZeit, and Hireology.

For many startups, funds are limited. They have to make every dollar, every hour and every hire count. Many of these young businesses also tend to have adventurous and unique company cultures. As a result, many startups have developed unusual strategies to find the best candidates for sales and marketing positions.


Here is a list of recruiting best practices from startups that any business can leverage to find the right candidates:

Review every resume you get.

Review every single resume submitted–even if the candidate is applying for a position that isn’t available right now. Taking the time to review each application will help you get a feel for the current talent pool, and keep the right person in mind if a position opens up later.

Invite candidates to try it out for a day.

After a candidate has made it through your screening process, bring them in for a firsthand look at what they would be doing each day. Have them sit with their potential team and observe the work being performed, and get their real-time feedback on how they feel about the job. This reduces the likelihood of quick turnover, and boosts confidence in the interviewee and interviewer that you’ve made the right match.

Hire for talent over experience.

The goal is to find the best person for the job: someone who impresses you, fits with your culture and works well in the role you offer. Many startup recruiters find that passionate candidates can come from unexpected places. At Software Advice, some of our best employees were bartenders, servers or retail workers when we hired them. Personality quizzes, video applications and asking questions such as “what are your 3 greatest life achievements?” can help you identify raw talent when professional experience for a role is lacking.

Make your job postings unique.

Don’t simply post a list of required work experience and job responsibilities. Give potential recruits a good idea of what makes your company culture cool and different–and honestly outline the demands of the job, as well. Be interesting AND candid. Some startups use video job descriptions or billboards to get attention.

Seek internal and external referrals.

One of the best ways to find the right candidates is by employee referral. However, you can also get quality recommendations from external referrals. Anyone who has a good feel for what your business does and your company culture can serve as excellent recruiting source. Consider offering a bonus for any referral that becomes a successful hire, whether internal or external: you’re more likely to get responses this way.

Conduct a role play or offer a sample project.

Another way to assess raw talent during the interview process is to test candidates’ core competencies. For example, a sales candidate could complete a mock sales call, or marketing candidates could research and write a short article on a given topic. This can help you spot top performers and avoid hiring those who don’t have what it takes.

Do away with the run-of-the-mill interview.

Sometimes, the traditional interview format just doesn’t cut it. Try hosting a recruiting party, inviting candidates to mingle with current employees in a laid-back setting. This approach allows you to screen multiple candidates at once, which is a huge time-saver.  Another option is a “cultural interview”: make the last stage of the interview process a meeting at a bar or a casual lunch with potential co-workers. Gauging peer-to-peer interaction can help you make a better personnel decision.

Invest your time in every new hire.

It’s important to get hiring decisions right the first time. While requiring more time on the front end, engaging in a more thorough recruiting process–conducting a phone call to screen a candidate, bringing them in to interview with the people they will be working with and requiring a test or sample project–can save everyone a lot of grief. By the end of the process, everyone is confident in the mutual decision to work together.

Personalize your hiring process.

Send your candidates a thank-you for submitting their application or going through your interview process. This shows you and your company are invested in the candidate, and that their participation matters. It also opens up communication in case the candidate has anything they want to ask about the position.

Finding the perfect fit is never easy. Using some of the recruiting strategies of successful startup companies can help improve your recruiting process. And you just might find some great people you’ve been missing.